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Thomson Ecology HandbookNational wildlife law | England

TEH Index

Part 1: Legal frameworks

Part 2: Planning policy and other guidance

Part 3: Development and features of biodiversity importance

Part 4: Surveys and assessment

Part 5: Mitigation and enhancement

Part 6: Practical techniques

Table 3A: Statutory Wildlife Law: England

Legislation Description
National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, as amended. Provides for the protection of National Parks and is still the primary legislation under which some local sites for nature conservation are designated.
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended (WCA) Provides for the protection of sites of at least national importance for nature conservation and varying levels of protection for species in need of conservation action, or other protection, within the UK. Protection may include prohibition of some or all of: killing, injuring, disturbing, taking, sale/barter or possession of species and also protection of breeding and sheltering places.
The Hedgerows Regulations 1997 Allow the identification of important hedgerows which are protected under the Regulations. Permission to remove important hedgerows must be obtained from the local planning authority. 
The Water Environment (England and Wales) Regulations 2003
(the Water Framework Regulations)
Under the Water Framework Directive, the Environment Agency has identified 11 river basin districts in England and Wales and has prepared a river basin management plan for each. The plans aim to ensure that all aquatic ecosystems and, with regard to their water needs, terrestrial ecosystems and wetlands meet 'good status' by 2015. The plans are currently being implemented. Following this they will be reviewed before the 2015 target.
Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (the NERC act) A wide ranging Act with some biodiversity components. Places a duty on all public authorities, including local planning authorities, to consider biodiversity in their work. Requires government departments to have regard to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Compels the Secretary of State to produce a list of species and habitats of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity and to take or promote steps to further their conservation.
Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW) Amends and strengthens existing legislation. For example, some offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act can now result in imprisonment.  
The Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) (England) Regulations 2009  Regulations which require operators to take steps to prevent damage to species and habitats already protected by other legislation including the Birds and Habitats Directives, but extending the protection to include habitats and species not only within, but beyond designated areas. Also to prevent damage to water resources, and land contamination which presents a threat to human health. Importantly, under these regulations competent authorities (Natural England with regard to species and habitats) may request information from operators to show compliance with the regulations and if damage occurs require the relevant operator to remedy the damage. 
Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, (Amendment) 2011 Creates a new marine planning system covering social and economic needs as well as nature conservation. Among other things, the Act establishes the Marine Management Organisation and enables the designation of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) to protect nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geomorphology and geology. The Act places a duty on all public authorities to protect MCZs and enables the Marine Management Organisation to create byelaws for the specific purpose of protecting a MCZ. 
Marine Strategy Regulations 2010  This instrument is to enable the UK to implement the requirements of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 2007, as amended by the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) (Amendment) Regulations 2010  Applies the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive to activities in marine areas where the United Kingdom has jurisdiction beyond its territorial sea - broadly from 12 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles from the United Kingdom’s coastal baseline.
The Environmental Civil Sanctions (England) Order 2010 and The Environmental Sanctions (Misc. Amendments) (England) Regulations 2010  In the face of breaches of wildlife legislation, Natural England and the Environment Agency have previously had the option of issuing warning letters or proceeding to full criminal prosecution. Under these Regulations, Natural England and the Environment Agency will be able to halt illegal activities, to order the restoration of environmental damage and to impose fines where legislation has been breached. The fines may be up to £250,000.
The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (the Habitats Regulations) as amended by the Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) Regulations 2012  Provide for the protection of sites in the UK that support habitats and species in need of conservation across Europe and full protection of species of European importance whether occurring within designated sites or not. The 2010 version consolidates all the amendments to the Habitats Regulations that have been made since 1994 and also implements part of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.  
Infrastructure Act 2015  Despite the name, this Act also contains amendments to the Wildlife and Countryside Act in relation to non-native invasive species of animals and plants and species no longer normally resident in Great Britain. Enables an Environmental Authority (such as Natural England) to issue a species control order which requires a landowner to undertake control measures or enables the Environmental Authority to do so, potentially at the expense of the land owner. 

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